Waterproofing exterior basement walls and installing a sump pump are two ways to prevent a wet basement that are expensive and complicated and beyond the capability of most homeowners. Homeowners can at least reduce the problem of water seeping into the basement by diverting water away from the foundation of the house. This can be done by making a slope away from your house, surrounding your house with a swale or installing drain tile to wick away the water from your house.
Remove the turf (grass) from around your house, for a distance of about 6 feet. You can do this with a sod cutter or by hand with a shovel. Try to cut under the roots to remove it intact so you can replace it after you add more dirt.
Dump dirt around the house, making sure you get it to the foundation.
Pack the dirt so it doesn't settle and create a low spot, especially near the foundation.
Slope the dirt away from the house. The slope should drop 6 to 12 inches in the first 10 feet around the house.
Replace the turf and pack it well. Reseed any bare spots.
Dig a swale if you have room around your house. A swale is a shallow ditch that surrounds your house on three sides.
Dig the swale at least 6 feet away from your house, making sure the ground between the swale and house slopes toward the swale.
Fill the swale with crushed rock or gravel and then cover it with dirt and turf. It should be even with the rest of your landscaping, but with a slight slope away from the house. The crushed rock or gravel provides a place for the water to drain.
Map out a drainage route. It should be at the bottom of a slope away from your house. The drainage tile should end someplace where it is acceptable for large amounts of water to be, such as a retention pond or storm sewer.
Dig a channel about 6 inches wide and 1 to 2 feet deep.
Spread 1 to 2 inches of gravel in the bottom of the channel. Lay in the drain tile with the holes facing down.
Cover the drain tile with more gravel. Top the gravel with dirt and sod.
Install gutters if your house does not already have them. You can hire someone to do this or attempt to do it yourself. Just keep in mind that they must slope toward the downspout and the joints must be watertight.
Keep gutters clean. Clogged gutters force water over the edge of the gutters, draining the water next to the foundation.
Extend downspouts. If a gutter downspout ends at the foundation, that's where it will dump all the water that runs off the roof, which concentrates the problem. A downspout extension moves the water away from the foundation and allows it to spread out in an area where it can drain away without causing damage.
Combining some of these methods can be the most effective at draining rainwater away from your house. Gutters are always a good idea, and sloping the ground away from your house is required by code in most places. More extreme problems can call for swales and drain tile.
Always have underground utilities located before you do any digging.